Seneca Park Zoo announces red panda addition

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The Seneca Park Zoo welcomes its newest addition, a 5-year-old red panda named Willie.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Seneca Park Zoo officials recently announced the arrival of a 5-year-old male red panda named Willie, who will join the zoo’s female red panda, Starlight.

Willie’s arrival is based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan, a coordinated initiative to plan for and manage the breeding of animals across all AZA-accredited zoos to ensure genetic diversity and species sustainability in human care.

“The Seneca Park Zoo continues to be one of our community’s most visited tourist attractions, with thousands of people and families visiting nearly every day,” Bello said. “The red pandas have been such a terrific addition to the zoo and have quickly become a favorite for guests of all ages. It’s exciting to think about the prospect of red panda cubs in the zoo’s future.”

Willie comes from Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee. He was born at the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina and reportedly was named after Willie Nelson, specifically his album “Red Headed Stranger.” Despite the origin of his name, Willie is distinctive from Starlight based on his predominantly white face. Starlight’s face markings are redder.

“We are excited for Starlight to have a mate,” said David Hamilton, interim zoo director. “Willie’s arrival is at the perfect time, as Starlight is now old enough to reproduce. What’s more, red pandas love cooler weather, so it’s a great time for guests to visit.”

Red pandas are native to foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. They are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, because their population, thought to be less than 10,000, has declined by 50% in the last 20 years.

“We are so happy to welcome Willie as an ambassador for his species,” said Pamela Reed Sanchez, president and CEO of the Seneca Park Zoo Society. “Since the introduction of red pandas to Seneca Park Zoo in 2018, the zoo has been an active supporter of Red Panda Network, providing grants from special fundraising efforts to restore and reforest the Red Panda Protected Forest.”

The zoo is open daily and timed tickets are required. Visit for information.